Friday, May 25, 2012

The Messenger, Mother's Day Show


By Sheron Hamilton-Pearson
NY: Three events converged on Sunday May 13, 2012 which made for a very special day indeed - Mother’s day, Luciano’s concert in the Bronx and my birthday. Somehow I managed to celebrate all three at The Garage, the newest live music and hang-out spot in the Bronx, just off the New England Throughway at 2260 Tillotson Avenue.
Part of a package of two shows in the NYC area, the Bronx event produced and promoted by local premier party promoter ‘Irie Dale’ and George Crooks of famed Jammins Entertainment was definitely the must attend event for Mother’s Day. I had heard that the Brooklyn show held the previous night was definitely a crowd pleaser and considering the plethora of events scheduled for that night, the crowd that turned out at Pulse 48 (formerly Amazura) must have surpassed all expectation.
This was my first time attending the Garage and I was pleasantly surprised at the innovative conversion of the space. Having the feel of an open sports bar with the ubiquitous large flat screen tvs, a stage and lots of space for the patrons who turned out on a Sunday evening to welcome the Return of the Messenger. Although the crowd was not what it should have been, perhaps given the fact that Monday would be a work day for many of those who would have attended, nevertheless, Luciano, ever the consummate performer, brought his A-plus game. As one of the premier roots and culture performers in the business and now having some 20 years tucked under his belt, Luciano has abundant energy, vivacity and showmanship. He understands that he is there to please the audience and immediately builds a rapport with his adoring fans. Reaching out and touching, engaging in eye contact, making the women in the crowd feel as though he was singing only to them.
Running through his catalogue of early songs from his smash Island Records album- Where There Is Life, - 'Who Could It Be', 'Your World and Mine,' T'here's No Love', as well the title track. With more songs from his 1997 Messenger CD, Luciano, aptly named The Messenger, certainly brought his message to the Bronx on Sunday night. As anyone who has attended a Luciano concert knows, this performer will always bless his audience and performance with a prayer and Sunday night was no exception. Leading his fans in a mini revival session, he interspersed his secular songs with church staple choruses like, If You know the Lord is keeping you - there's Nothing to Worry About. The ‘praise and worship’ session ended with a very powerfully moving rendition of ‘It’s Me Again Jah’. He also paid tribute to Bob Marley and Michael Jackson with a nice selection from these musical icons.
Luciano is never afraid to share the stage, hosting local artists Raggalox, Culture Wise Ras Progress and Survivalist who all had a turn at blessing the mic, even though the latter didn’t seem to want to reliniquish his moment in the spotlight!

[photo credit: Riddim Queen]
My respect for this artist grew leaps and bounds when after the conclusion of the show at 2 am, he stayed for over an hour signing autographs and taking pictures with the crowd of fans who just wanted to show their love. As Tanya Stephens mentioned in her hit song "Way Back" with such apt and biting commentary – “Way back to when a star attitude wasn’t defined by somebody being rude, to when it was a pleasure definitely not a task to greet a fan with a smile and sign a damn autograph”! Welcome back Luciano after your almost two-year absence from New York's reggae scene.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Real Jamaican Laughter

On Saturday March 14th, 2012 Wingate High School in Brooklyn played host to the Ellis empire as Roza Roze aka Noel Ellis, Ian “Ity” Ellis, Alton “Fancy Cat” Hardware, Winston “Blakka Ellis and Kathy Grant also known as ‘The Country Helper’ took over the stage with their own brand of comedic madness and mayhem.

Compered by Bob DaSouza CEO of Transcontinental Shippers and produced by VEP Productions, Lanny G and Pleasure Promotions, the show started on time at 8:30 pm. First on stage – a lean and lithe Roza Roze (Noel Ellis) – the oldest child of Alton Ellis, described by his cousin Blakka as a natural comedian, Roza’s fine singing talent was also on display. Definitely topical and current his take on the latest trend of bleaching was right on point. Penning lyrics to some very popular melodies like “Break Up to Make Up” by the Stylistics “tell me what’s wrong – tell me why I never seem to make me happy” – he got the crowd warmed up and readily participation the chorus “bleach…bleach”. Singing to the tune of R Kelly’s “G-Spot” his ode to breadfruit definitely has a double meaning, aptly demonstrated by his gyrating body which left no doubt as to his love of ‘breadfruiting’! Moon-walking with trousers half-mast, the crowd was certainly enjoying his performance and in particular his Michael Jackson spoof.

Kathy Grant, “the Country Helper” from the Ity and Fancy Cat TV show mocked her character’s country origins and reminded all those born and bred in the Caribbean countryside of the simplicity of times past as she reminisced on the “virgin” test. Weaving her story she made reference to “pit” toilets, latrines, bodily functions and how to tell if a young girl was still virtuous. Memories were definitely evoked as the crowd slapped thighs and laughed loudly getting into the spirit. Kathy also has a pleasantly powerful voice which she demonstrated in her rendition of Adele’s anthem – “Someone Like You”.

The show moved at a fast pace, with Blakka Ellis next up on stage. Perhaps more widely known as a comedian, Blakka is so much more - teacher, motivational speaker, lyricist, columnist and co-founder of family run Ellis International (a multi-purpose agency supporting and promoting the works of comics the world over) along with brothers Ian “Ity” and Aston “Robot” Ellis. Recently the recipient of an Actor Boy Award in Jamaica for his one man show ‘UN’, Blakka seems to have made a comeback to live performance following his very public retirement from stand-up comedy in 2009 after almost thirty years on stages around the world. Blakka’s timing and confidence whilst working with his audience is flawless, his easy conversational style makes you think you’re sitting in a bar hanging out with friends and just shooting the breeze. Is he funny? – Oh yes! Poking fun at Jamaicans and their so-called homophobia, he regales the crowd with the story (all while keeping a straight face) of the man in Jamaica pulled over by a cop and asked to take a breathalyzer. “Everybody know Jamaican man nah blow eena nutten in front of people”.

After a short intermission, the headline act Ity and Fancy Cat hit the stage to wild applause as they make their entrance from the well of the auditorium. They quickly connect and engage the audience with skits and gags galore. One can definitely see why their comic TV show is rated number 1 in the Caribbean. No topic is off limits, and neither it seems are some unwitting members of the audience, but it’s all in jest and no offence is taken by the couple in the audience who are lambasted for their nonchalant disregard of each other. I can’t remember if it is Ity or Fancy Cat that jokes this is the couple where the man probably told his partner to go on inside while he hangs back to scope out the scene to see if anyone is there that knows him! The comedy duo have known each other since childhood, having grown up in Jamaica’s Trench Town area and their rapport and ease at working together definitely attests to this long-standing relationship.

The show comes to an end all too soon, a good time is had by all and the audience – young and old, leave the venue very satisfied (some of them still recounting the jokes they’ve just heard chuckling anew). Other lucky patrons even have an opportunity to take photos with their favorite cast members.

Laughter soothes the soul and ‘Jamaican Laughter’ restores faith that every little thing’s gonna be alright.